Scientists have released an updated version of what is probably the best view from NASA regarding Jupiter’s moon covered in ice, Europa. The color images were taken in the late 1990s by the Galileo spacecraft. NASA is publishing for the first time a version of the image produced using modern image processing technology.
NASA reprocessed old images taken in the 1990s using more powerful and new computer systems to generate the highly detailed color images of Jupiter’s icy moon. NASA says that the moon covered in ice could very well be able to sustain life as we know it on our own planet. The image of Europa shows the largest part of the surface of the moon at a very high resolution.
In 2001, NASA released a lower resolution, earlier version of the image which featured strongly enhanced colors. The new image, however, approximates what would be able to be seen by the human eye. Fans of space images have released their own renditions of the image using the data publicly available but NASA has not released its rendition of the image using near natural color until now.
The picture features many curving, long and linear ruptures in the moon’s surface. Scientists are very excited to learn if the fractures and other shapes on Jupiter’s moon contain secrets about the history of Europa and of the ocean believed to exist beneath the icy surface of the moon.
Beneath the ice surface of Europa is probably the most favorable place besides Earth in our solar system to look for environments suitable of sustaining life. Strong evidence that an ocean of salty water below the moon’s surface is in contact with a floor made up of rocks. Sources of chemical energy that could be able to sustain simple life forms could be provided by the cycling of material between the ice shell and the ocean.
Space agencies from all around the world are planning to send unmanned missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa to further analyze the satellite. The European Space Agency says it has plans to send an explorer on the moon in 2022. NASA says is planning a mission of its own sometime in the middle of the next decade.